U.S. freezes all non-immigrant visa services in Turkey, citing security


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The U.S. embassy in Ankara says it is suspending, effective immediately, all non-immigrant visa services in the country

The embassy said this was to “reassess the commitment of the Government of Turkey to the security of U.S. mission facilities and personnel.”

The move will place severe limits on Turkish citizens wishing to apply for a visa using U.S. diplomatic facilities in the country.

The types of visas affected include tourism, medical treatment, business, temporary work or study.



Last week, the U.S. said it was “deeply disturbed” by the arrest of a staff member of its consulate in Istanbul, rejecting accusations against him.

The employee is a Turkish citizen and the second local staff member to be arrested in Turkey this year.

The U.S. statement was also critical of “leaks from Turkish government sources seemingly aimed at trying the employee in the media, rather than in a court of law.”

The move worsened already tense relations between the NATO allies.



Turkish media has been full of information about the employee.

The reports say he was arrested for espionage, saying he is linked to followers of Fethullah Gulen, a cleric living in the US who is an arch-rival of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu spoke with his US counterpart Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Saturday, according to Turkish media outlets.

A number of US citizens are jailed in Turkey – in particular, Andrew Brunson, a Christian pastor who was arrested last year and has yet to face trial.



He too is accused of links to the Islamic cleric Gulen. This case has resonated in Washington.

Ankara, meanwhile, wants the US to extradite Gulen, a legal resident in Pennsylvania, accusing him of orchestrating last year’s failed military coup.

At the same time, Turkey is growing closer to Russia and Iran, worrying some US politicians.

U.S. Amb. John Bass, who is finishing his term in Ankara, said the arrest of the local staff member was motivated by “revenge rather than justice” among some within the Turkish government, Voice of America reported from a meeting with journalists.

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